Home > Queensland Synod News > Christmas scent sources under threat

Christmas scent sources under threat

Scientists are warning that in years to come, incense – the fragrant scent commonly associated with Christmas – could be increasingly in short supply. The warning comes as use of incense undergoes its yearly peak in the run-up to Christmas.

Incense is derived from frankincense, an aromatic resin tapped from Boswellia trees. The Bible tells of the infant Jesus being presented with frankincense as a gift. Use of the scent is especially popular in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

Writing in the December issue of the Journal of Applied Ecology, the scientists call for rules to govern frankincense tapping, so that the trees have time to regenerate. The journal is a publication of the British Ecological Society.

The Dutch scientists, from the University of Wageningen, together with African colleagues studied the tapping of frankincense in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. The Horn of Africa is the world’s leading producer of frankincense. The researchers found that the Boswellia woodlands are failing to regenerate, due largely to over-tapping of the resin.

Most incense used in the Netherlands comes from Ethiopia. "If we don’t do anything now, then the trees will be gone from this area in 20 to 30 years," Dutch professor, Frans Bonger, was quoted as saying by the daily Volkskrant newspaper on 14 December.

(c) Ecumenical News International